The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) may use the 2010 Electoral Act to conduct the 2019 General Elections.
This comes as the 30-constitutional window for President Muhammadu Buhari to sign the Electoral Act (Amendment) Bill expires on Thursday, December 6, with no indication that he will give his assent.
Section 58 (4) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) gives the President a 30-day period within which he is expected to either sign a bill transmitted to him by the National Assembly or communicate the withholding of his assent.
Analysts have expressed concern over the country’s inability to have an amended Electoral Act signed into law, less than three months to the polls.
It would be recalled that the National Assembly had transmitted the fourth version of the Electoral Act (Amendment) Bill to the President on November 7, 2018.
The amendment which seeks to improve the quality of elections in Nigeria, has been going back and forth between the Legislature and the Executive arm of government, with the President rejecting the alterations passed by the National Assembly on three previous occasions.
Some of the highlights of the bill include legalization of smart card reader for accreditation of voters, electronic transmission of results, stiffer sanctions for erring INEC officials, media houses among others.
Already, 75 political parties have threatened to boycott the 2019 election if President Buhari fails to sign the bill into law.
The political parties under the aegis of Inter Party Advisory Council (IPAC), are of the opinion that the Bill will ensure credible elections if signed into law by the President.
The parties that attended the IPAC meeting last week where the resolution was reached include the Action Peoples Party (APP), Action Alliance (AA), Alliance for Democracy (AD), Progressive Peoples Party (PPP), Mass Action Joint Alliance (MAJA), Better Nigeria Political Party (BNPP), All Grand Alliance Party (AGAP), Coalition for Change (C4C) Alliance for a United Nigeria (AUN), New Generation Party of Nigeria (NGP), People for Democratic Change (PDC), Restoration Party of Nigeria (RP), Young Democratic Party (YDP) among others.
But a ranking senator told BusinessDay on Wednesday that the President is not at ease with the legalization of smart card readers and electronic transmission of results to checkmate rigging.
The PDP lawmaker submitted that having benefitted from a ‘faulty process’ that brought in President Buhari in 2015 where INEC ‘disenfranchised’ people in the South by using card reader while adopting incident forms in the North which recorded massive votes for him, the President would prefer the status quo to be maintained in the 2019 election.
“The President is not comfortable with the provisions of the bill that legalised the use of card reader for accreditation as well as electronic transmission of results from Ward to Collation Centre. He prefers the analogue accreditation and results transmission which are subject to manipulation,” the lawmaker who spoke on condition of anonymity, said.
He argued that refusal of the President to assent to the bill would adversely affect the capacity of the electoral body to conduct transparent and credible polls.
However, it appears the apex legislative chamber is already divided along Pro-Saraki and Pro-Buhari supporters on the matter.
Investigations revealed that while PDP senators belong to the Pro-Saraki camp, Pro-Buhari lawmakers are majorly from the APC. Also, most Pro-Saraki senators are in the forefront of those urging the President to sign the bill into law, while their APC counterparts think otherwise.
Just recently, the Senate Majority Leader, Ahmad Lawan had said President Buhari would not be stampeded in signing the bill.
The APC lawmaker submitted that even without the assent of the President to the 2018 Electoral Act (Amendment) Bill, the amended 2010 Electoral Act was in perfect order to guide the nation have a more transparent election in 2019.
Dismissing calls on the president to sign the bill, he urged him to take his time and scrutinise what was transmitted to him before taking a decision on whether to sign or withhold assent to the proposed legislation.
“The President is studying this bill, it is not like you will send it to him and he will immediately sign. This is a sign that he is really interested in what we sent back to him. It is for him and his advisers to read through line by line and see how best the electoral process can be enhanced.
“So, I don’t think we have run out of time. In fact I think we should encourage the president and those helping him to complete going through the bill before he signs. What is the problem? We still have the 2006 Electoral Act as amended (in 2010) that we used in 2015 for an election that was adjudged to be free, fair and an improved process. We don’t necessarily put so much pressure and unneeded criticism of the president when he is yet to complete his analysis of what has been sent to him. He needs to take his time.”
OWEDE AGBAJILEKE, Abuja
Tags: Electoral Act